FOR YOUR RESEARCH
This section is here to provide advice to help you begin your own research. It may be beneficial to consider first whether you are hoping to research 1) a person or group of people, 2) a place, 3) a time or event, or 4) an artefact or document, as this may help you refine how you begin your efforts. Remember you can submit a specific enquiry to AMOT via our query form. We ask that those who submit enquiries (and those who don't!) consider making a modest donation in support of the work AMOT does.
The 141 AMOT regimental and corps museums in the United Kingdom hold a wealth of information about the men and women who served in the regiments and corps concerned. Researchers are advised to contact the appropriate museum, if known, at an early stage in their enquiries. Contact details for all the museums can be found in the Museums Search section of this website. Identification of the correct museum may be helped by reference to the Succession of Titles information provided. If the location of the appropriate museum cannot be determined, researchers are invited to contact the Army Museums Trust for help.
Imperial War Museum (IWM) The IWM has no personal service records or official documentation. However it does have a comprehensive reference library of some 125,000 books and pamphlets and some 15,000 volumes of periodicals.
Independent Researchers This list of Independent Researchers is provided for the benefit of those seeking professional assistance with tracing Army ancestors.
- Marcus Holt: Specialist military researcher with twenty years experience of researching military and genealogical records from the late 18th Century to the Second World War. For enquiries you are welcome to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Simon Fowler: Professional and authoritative research in military history and military genealogy from 1760 to 1960, specialising in the two world wars. 254A Kew Road, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3EG. Tel: 07984 897602. email: email@example.com www.history-man.co.uk
Personnel records & regimental contacts
Army Personnel Centre (APC) MS - Disclosures 2 : Holds all post 1920 Army personnel records. Address: MP535, Kentigern House, 65 Brown Street, Glasgow G2 8EX. Tel: 0345 600 9663 / 0845 600 9663. Fax: 0141 224 3172. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.army.mod.uk/welfare-support/23212.aspx
APC Disclosures 5 (Polish) : For Polish personnel under British command during WW2. Address: Building 1 (Ops), RAF Northolt, West End Road, Ruislip, Middlesex, HA4 6NG. Tel: 020 8833 8603. Fax: 020 8833 8866. Email: NOR-PolishDiscOffice@mod.uk
Regimental Headquarters - the Guards : For enquiries about Foot Guards - Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards & Welsh Guards. Address: Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk, London SW1E 6HQ.
Scottish Horse Records : Holds records of the Yeomanry Regiment of the British Army's Territorial Army from 1902-1956. Please email first if you wish to conduct research. Address: The Community Archive, 12 The Cross, Dunkeld, PH8 0AN. Tel: 01350 727 786. Email: email@example.com
General family history resources
Ancestry : Holds a wide range of genealogical records along with military records including those relating to WW1 and WW2. Web: www.ancestry.co.uk
Find My Past : Holds a wide range of genealogical records along with military records including those relating to WW1 and WW2. Web: www.findmypast.co.uk
Society of Genealogists : Holds a wide range of genealogical records along with military records including those relating to WW1 and WW2. Address: 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7BA. Tel: 020 7251 8799. Fax: 020 7250 1800. Web: www.sog.org.uk
British Library (St Pancras) : Holds extensive newspaper, broadcast and web news archive material which is available via its dedicated Newsrooom Research facility. Address: St Pancras Building, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB. Web: www.bl.uk
British Library (Boston Spa) : Holds extensive newspaper archives. Address: National Newspaper Building, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS23 7BQ. Web: www.bl.uk
National Archives of Scotland : This has now merged with the National Records of Scotland - see www.nrscotland.gov.uk
Commonwealth War Graves Commission : Holds records of war dead and their grave locations between the periods 04/08/1914 - 31/08/1921 and 03/09/1939 - 31/12/1947. Address: 2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 7DX. Tel: 01628 507 200. Fax: 01628 771 208. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.cwgc.org
Ministry of Defence PS4(A) (Cas/Comp) : Holds information relating to the provision of military headstones for the graves of recently deceased soldiers. Postal enquiries only. Address: Building 43, Trenchard Lines, Upavon, Pewsey, Wiltshire, SN9 6BE.
Royal Hospital Chelsea : Holds the archive of pensioner records dating back to 1871. Address: Royal Hospital Road, London, SW3 4SR. Tel: 020 7881 5200. Web: www.chelsea-pensioners.co.uk/tracing-ancestors
Central Statistics Office Ireland : Holds records for births, marriages, deaths and other associated information in the Republic of Ireland from 1949. Address: Kehard Road, Cork, Ireland. Tel: 00353 21 453 5000 Fax: 00353 21 453 555. Email: email@example.com Web: www.cso.ie
Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency : Holds records of births, marriage, deaths and other associated information for Northern Ireland dating back to the 19th Century. Address: McAuley House, 2-14 Castle Street, Belfast, BT1 1SA. Tel: 028 9034 8100. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
General Register Office : Holds records of births, deaths, marriages and other associated information in England dating back to 1837. Address: PO Box 2, Southport, Merseyside, PR 8 2JD. Tel: 0151 471 4200. Web: www.gro.gov.uk
General Register Office for Scotland : Holds records for births, deaths, marriages and other associated information in Scotland dating back more than 400 years. Address: New Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 3YT. Tel: 0131 535 1314. Web: www.nrscotland.gov.uk and www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk
Imperial War Museum : Holds the artefacts & archives which tell the story of people's experience of war from 1914 onwards. Address: Lambeth Road, London, SE1 6HZ. Tel: 020 7416 5000. Web: www.iwm.org.uk
National Army Museum : Holds the artefacts & archives which tell the story of the British Army and its impact on society, dating back to the 17th Century. Address: Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 4HT. Web: www.nam.ac.uk
Ministry of Defence Medal Office : Takes enquiries and applications for medals (including replacements) and the Veterans badge. Address: Innsworth House, Imjin Barracks, Innsworth, Gloucestershire, GL3 1HW. Email: email@example.com Web: www.gov.uk/guidance/medals-campaigns-descriptions-and-eligibility
Ancestor Research & Military Genealogy In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of people researching their family histories and genealogy. There are numerous on-line sources of information but, even so, this can be a complex subject. We offer advice on how to search for Army ancestors and to research into your family history.
The purpose of this brief guide is to indicate to researchers the main sources of information. Please note that details of Officers and the Other Ranks, (that is to say the Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Soldiers), are often recorded differently. It is recommended that once an individual’s regiment or corps has been identified a researcher’s initial approach should be to the appropriate regimental or corps museum, details of which may be obtained from the Museums Search section of this website.
Where reference is made to an Agency or organisation the relevant address will be found at Start Your Research under the section USEFUL ADDRESSES.
Officers The ranks of Second Lieutenant to Field Marshal.
Other ranks The ranks of Private to Warrant Officer (Including Troopers, Gunners, Sappers, Guardsmen, Fusiliers, Riflemen, Lance Corporals, Corporals, Sergeants, Sergeant Majors and Quartermaster Sergeants).
There is no single list of soldiers who have served in the British Army and as most records are kept under regimental titles, the name of the subject’s regiment is a fundamental prerequisite for successful research. If unknown, clues the identity of a soldier’s regiment can often be obtained from family papers/letters, photographs, badges and medals.
Army Lists Army Lists, from 1702 onwards, are the starting point for tracing the service of officers. The National Archives (TNA) has a number of lists ‘on record’ (WO 64-66 and WO 211) and printed copies are available in the Reference Room at the TNA. The National Army Museum has a fairly comprehensive run of Army Lists and regimental and corps Museums usually have a reasonable coverage in their libraries. Also useful in tracing officers who gained commissions before 1727 are Charles Dalton’s books: “English Army Lists and Commission Registers 1661-1714”, Eyre and Spottiswode, 6 volumes, 1892-1904, and “George I’s Army 1714-1727”, Eyre and Spottiswode, 2 volumes, 1910.
Army Service Numbers Service numbers are allocated to members of the military, and can be useful important in tracing a soldier’s records. A useful reference resource for regimental numbers used in the British Army 1881-1918 can be found at armyservicenumbers.blogspot.co.uk/
Regimental & corps museums In 2002 The Ministry of Defence distributed their regimental and unit attestation books to various military museums; these generally cover the period c1919-1945 and are particularly useful given the restrictions on access to service papers held at Glasgow. The entries are arranged by army number (each volume has an A-Z index by first letter) and include all men still serving c.1920 (including some men who served during the First World War and earlier) as well as re-enlistments and new enlistments. Early entries are quite detailed but the quantity of information generally falls away rapidly after about 1925 and by 1940 only the number full name and date of transfer or demob and new unit are usually given. Similar indexed volumes may exist for men ‘transferred-in’ from other regiments.
Brigade of Guards The Regiments of Foot Guards are an exception to the general rule and they have traditionally retained all their own soldiers’ records. The appropriate regimental headquarters holds records from the early nineteenth century to the present date. Postal enquiries only should be addressed to: Regimental Headquarters – Grenadier / Coldstream / Scots / Irish / Welsh Guards, Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk, London SW1E 6HQ.
Chelsea Pensioners Hold records for 1) In-Pensioners who lived in the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and in return surrendered their pensions; and 2) Out-Pensioners who lived at home, their Army pensions being paid initially by attendance at the Royal Hospital but later locally. Both categories were referred to as “Chelsea Pensioner” (or similar) on official documents such as Census returns or Death Certificates.
The archives of the Royal Hospital Chelsea include some but not all records of the In-Pensioners from 1871 to the present date. Records that are pre-1871 are held by The National Archives. Earlier records are limited to name, number, rank, regiment, date admitted to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, date of death and, in most cases, place of burial. From 1984 onwards, more comprehensive records may be available.
For a small charge the Royal Hospital may be able to provide copies of those records that are pertinent to relatives of In-Pensioners, but be advised that requests for photographs of Pensioners pre-1990 usually go unfulfilled due to a lack of identifiable images. Requests, with a stamped addressed envelope and a cheque for £5 made payable to Chelsea Pensioner (RH) Ltd. Address found in USEFUL ADDRESSES.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) holds information about the location of graves and memorials around the world. The Commission has details of all Service personnel who died between 4 August 1914 and 31 August 1921 and from 3 September 1939 to 31 December 1947. A fee may be charged for enquiries but there is a website containing the computerised database at www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx
Military Academy Records Records of cadets who trained at the Royal Military Academy (1790-1939) and the Royal Military College (1806-1946) are held at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst where research enquiries should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Armed Forces Memorial – Roll of Honour The Armed Forces Memorial at the National Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire contains the names of 16,000 servicemen and women killed on duty or as a result of terrorist action since 1 January 1948. Access to the Roll of Honour and a facility to print a certificate is available at www.veterans-uk.info/afm2/index.php
Scottish Horse The regimental records photographic archive of The Scottish Horse are held by The Chapter House Museum in Dunkeld Cathedral. They include significant material relating to the Regiment’s involvement in The Boer War and The Great War with particular reference to Gallipoli.
Succession titles The titles of the regiments of the British Army have changed considerable and frequently over the years. Regional affiliations, connections with Royalty, amalgamations and disbandment have had all left their mark and tracing the historic names of famous regiments can be a frustrating and time consuming task. This section of the website aims to reduce these problems by providing a simple table which shows the progression in title of the 31 Cavalry and 115 Infantry Regiments of 1881 through a series of changes to the 10 Cavalry Regiments and 29 battalions of Infantry that have resulted from the most recent changes in 2006/2007. In time, this table will be extended to include the historic titles of the supporting Arms and Services of the British Army. Titles that existed earlier than 1881 can be found in the Museums Search section under Historic Names and they are also listed with the entries for individual museums.
AMOT_succession of titles_cavalry – View succession of titles by INFANTRY
Indian Army Records of the Officers and Other Ranks of the Honourable East India Company’s (HEIC) armies and of the Indian Army 1861-1947 are held in the India Office Library and Records Collection of the British Library (Oriental and India Office Records).
1920 This is a key date for locating service records.
- Pre 1920: official records are held by The National Archives (TNA) at Kew www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
- Post 1920: records are still held by the Army Personnel Centre of the Ministry of Defence. Copies the records are available and the application procedure is described at www.gov.uk/requests-for-personal-data-and-service-records.
The National Archives at Kew The National Archives at Kew is the principal source of existing pre-1920 official records. However, it should be noted that they are far from complete as more than two thirds of the records covering the period 1914-1920 were damaged or destroyed by enemy action during World War 2. The main military source material, which can be helpful in identifying a soldier’s regiment, can be found in the record classes[link doc]. For soldiers discharged to pension[link doc]. For soldiers NOT killed in service[link doc]. Corresponding records for soldiers killed in service no longer exist.
Additional material for research into officers’ records:
- Returns of Service were first compiled by the War Office in the early 19th century, apparently on information supplied by the officers themselves. These records are at WO 25, 54 and 76 and are further categorised by date, Arm or Service and status, i.e. full/half pay, retired.
- Commander-in-Chief’s Memoranda Papers were concerned with the appointment, promotion and resignation of officers. See WO 31.
- Widows’ pensions and pensions to wounded officers Some provision was made for the widows and dependents of officers killed on active service. The available records are split between War Office records WO 23-25 and those of the Paymaster General at PMG 9-11.
Other than the official service records, other relevant records held by TNA include:
- Civil Registrations Registrations of births, marriages and deaths after 1837 (England and Wales) or 1855 (Scotland) sometimes indicate the name of the person or parent concerned.
- Census Returns It is possible to find reference to service careers in the census returns taken every ten years from 1841.
- Regimental Registers and Chaplains Returns A number of “non-statutory” returns exist. The Regimental Registers record births, baptisms, marriages and burials of soldiers or members of their families and cover the period 1761-1924. Further information may be available in the Army Chaplains’ Department records of baptisms, marriages and burials at overseas stations.
Ministry of Defence Medal Office Controls the issue and replacement of medals. Full details of how to claim previously unclaimed medals, obtain replacements for lost or stolen medals and information on associated topics can be found on The National Archives website.
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